The National Sleep Foundation tells us that nearly half of us don’t get enough sleep.
In modern-day society, because of night work, television, computers, and the profound stress we experience in everyday life, our sleep is often disrupted. Sleep is a basic biological need, like hunger and thirst. When we don’t get enough of it, our bodies let us know that there are consequences.
Maintain regular times for getting to sleep and waking up, including on the weekends. Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by an internal clock that balances both sleep time and wake time. Getting up at the same time every morning helps with getting to sleep the next night. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, try to avoid daytime naps.
Create a sleep environment that is dark, cool, quiet, comfortable, and free of interruptions. It may help to use eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, or fans. The brain responds to light to detect whether it’s night or day, so use curtains or shading to keep light at minimal levels. Studies have shown that sleep inducement is increased when body temperatures are lower (and this means a fan or air conditioner and light covers, not heavy blankets – depending on the season, of course).
Slow down the metabolic rate about half an hour before getting to sleep. Establish a regular, relaxing routine before going to bed. This might involve soaking in a hot bath, then reading or listening to soothing music before trying to sleep. Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime, like computers, video games, office work, housework, or family problem-solving.
Avoid using the bed for activities other than sleep. The bed is not the place to read, watch TV, work on a laptop, or do office work. We need to make an association in our brain between bed and sleep. Sexual activity is an exception, which is believed to make it easier to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep.
Exercise regularly. Finish your exercise at least three hours before bedtime. Higher body temperatures accompany exercise and we sleep best when our body temperature is lower.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can interfere with the process of falling asleep. Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep and causes nighttime awakening. Consuming alcohol causes a night of restless sleep.
Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime. Also, try to restrict fluid intake close to bedtime to prevent waking up during the night to go to the bathroom. (Some people, on the other hand, find that warm milk or herbal teas are soothing and a helpful part of the nighttime routine.)